A&M students neglect professors as interesting people
Most Aggies see their professors as mere sources for instruction. Students only visit an instructors office to ask questions about an assignment or complain about the grading of an exam -- they bother to find the office at all.
Students rob themselves of terrific experiences when they fail to meet their professors and get to know them better. Everyone should meet their professors to get advice, hear experiences and make a friend.
Professors are hired for their knowledge and experience. Students can take advantage of these attributes even outside of a classroom setting. At a world-class University like Texas A&M, many professors come out of noteworthy backgrounds. Many members of the faculty are involved in renowned research projects, know various celebrities and have led interesting lives.
Many instructors have been teaching for several years, so they are familiar with problems common to students. From scheduling to work pressures, professors can usually offer constructive advice. Few people would consider a job teaching if they did not care about their students. Faculty members are almost always happy to help out Aggies.
A large number of A&M professors have also worked in private industry for many years. Their work experience allows them to help students who are trying to start careers. Professors in University departments have often already worked in the fields students are interested in. The political science department is staffed with former lobbyists, and even President Bowen had an impressive career in chemical engineering.
Often the richest information professors can provide are their personal anecdotes and experiences.
Professor Richard Stadelmann, Director of Religious Studies, often shares his sundry experiences with students. In his small office overflowing with books, he tells of the time he debated Gary Hart, went to school with the Reverend Jim Jones or spent a few days with the homeless in Austin "to see what it was like."
Students are amused by the wide range of Stadelmann's stories. Besides his activity in religious organizations (he met the Zoroastrian high priest), he has been involved in state and national politics (he served as parliamentarian for the Republican Party of Texas).
A&M's instructors are usually experts in their field. Anyone with an interest in a particular academic topic could benefit from visiting with a professor about current research and developments. Even if a student never plans to take course work in a the field that interests them, they can expand the scope of their knowledge by using the resources available at our University.
Though faculty members are often busy, they are often available to help students. Professors can provide input on projects from other classes, help with private undertakings or answer questions from the curious.
Unfortunately, students are often afraid to even approach their own professors about a class concern. As a result, some instructors actually fear the office hours they are forced to keep in case a student happens to come by. Students miss a great opportunity.
Aside from the personal aspect of meeting an instructor outside of a classroom setting, professors enjoy feedback from their students. It helps them understand where the class is having problems, what aspects of the course are most beneficial and what should be changed in future semesters. First hand reports are more beneficial than a scantron-style evaluation form completed in five minutes. Conversations with faculty members can have far-reaching benefits.
The University environment lends itself to opportunities students may never get again. Institutions of higher learning have a high concentration of brilliant people and intense researchers. Aggies should be careful not to waste their opportunity to meet and get to know such prominent and interesting people.